Why the Maker’s Schedule is the Secret to Great Work

You’ll never be a genius. 

Why? Because they don’t exist. 

For centuries, society has promoted “lone geniuses.” These are unique individuals who solely changed the world with their talents. 

However, the truth isn’t as exciting as this myth. 

Behind every innovative product, business, or revolution is a great team. For example, many people think that Steve Jobs invented the Macintosh computer. 

In reality, he didn’t invent anything.

He was a leader who found people to execute his vision. Business Executive Tim Sanders explains:

“If [Steve Jobs] doesn’t have [Steve] Wozniak, there is no original Apple. If he doesn’t have [Johnathan] Ive, there is no iPod. If he doesn’t have Tony Fadell, there is no iPhone.”

This logic also applies to inventions like the lightbulb. Thomas Edison built it by collaborating with other scientists. 

Genius work is a team effort. However, many remote managers are limiting their people’s progress. 

Why Managers Need to Embrace Maker’s Schedules

In his essay, YC’s Paul Graham explains that teams have makers and managers. Makers are those hired to do great work. They’re your designers, engineers, and writers.

They also tend to enjoy remote work. Makers can focus for several hours without getting distracted. Their schedule looks like large time blocks dedicated to completing tasks.

As a manager, your schedule is more diverse. 

You oversee people, systems, and goals. So, your day consists of answering emails, meetings, and calls. You need smaller blocks of focus.

Both of these schedules are great for each role. However, trouble happens when they combine. 

New remote managers tend to manage people as if they’re still in an office. They’ll plan meetings that interrupt people’s schedules.

This is disastrous. Such interruptions prevent makers from achieving greatness.

They’re forced to switch between tasks, lowering their motivation and their work’s quality. Some won’t even start again until the next day because their afternoon was ruined. 

In remote workplaces, great work matters more than hours worked. So, you must surrender your control and respect the maker’s schedule. 

Here’s how to help your employees create better quality work:

1. Stop Distracting Your People with Shallow Work

How many meetings do you schedule a week? How many emails or Slack updates do you send a day?

If you’re like most managers, you send too many. 

These tools have always been used to hold people accountable and determine their productivity. However, new research suggests that they worsen employee performance. 

For example, makers must perform deep work. Author Cal Newport calls this the ability to focus on complex tasks without distractions. Such focus saves time, improves skills, and moves projects forward. 

When you schedule too many meetings, you interrupt this focus. Employees must leave their work and concentrate on your meeting. 

This is called multi-tasking, and it’s very costly.

In a 2001 study, researchers asked participants to switch between tasks. They would waste time and make mistakes every time they multi-tasked. One of the researchers, David Meyer, explains that such small build-ups or “brief mental blocks…can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”

Simply, the more you multi-task, the longer it takes to complete your work.

Another reason to not have meetings is that they interrupt your employees’ flow. According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow is the mental state in which you feel and perform at your best. You become totally engaged in a task. 

This state increases work quality but also creativity. 

Harvard’s Teresa Amiable studied 222 employees at seven companies. She discovered that employees who reached the flow state had higher levels of productivity, creativity, and happiness.

When you interrupt your people, you make it harder for them to reach this state. They’ll have to work at least 30 minutes to return to it. Some might quit entirely. 

Meeting and emails are necessary, but they can easily become distracting. Too much of these can lead to higher stress, mistakes, and lower creativity.

Which, in turn, will make your job harder. 

You can solve this problem by creating a schedule that benefits both you and your makers.

2. Create Hybrid Schedules and Office Hours

Makers and managers are both essential parts of an innovative team. When you match each other well, magic happens. 

This is why you should adopt a hybrid schedule. It’s a mix of the manager and maker schedules. You dedicated part of your week to deep work and the rest to meetings.

For example, Harrison Harnisch was a former technical lead at Buffer. He had both manager and maker duties. 

However, he noticed that he spent all day answering emails and mentoring others. There wasn’t enough time to finish his projects. 

So, he divided his calendar. Mondays and Fridays were about manager work. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays were about deep work.  

This plan helped him finish important tasks and re-group with his teams. 

It’s highly advised that you try this for yourself and the rest of your team. Pick 2 – 3 days that will focus on management tasks. 

Then, dedicate the rest of the week to deep work. On these days, you won’t be allowed to interrupt your makers. 

Another option is creating office hours. Instead of assigning days to certain roles, you assign hours.

For example, 9 am to 12 pm will be about work. Then, from 1 pm to 5 pm, you or your employees are allowed to interact with each other. 

Paul Graham has a similar daily schedule: 

“At the end of my working day, and I wrote a signup program that ensures all the appointments within a given set of office hours are clustered at the end. Because they come at the end of my day these meetings are never an interruption.”

When you pick a schedule format, please make it public to the rest of your team. People get easily offended when they don’t get a quick reply. 

3. Replace Meetings and Chats with Written Reports

Your team’s goal should be to produce high-quality work. This is work that solves problems. Or make other people’s lives easier. 

However, many remote managers prevent this by over-communicating. They think constant video meetings and chat groups increase productivity. 

This is false. They make it worse. 

Most meetings are useless. They’re too common, too long, and too boring. In the Harvard Business Review, researchers asked of 182 managers about their thoughts on meetings:

  • 65% said meetings stopped them from finishing their work
  • 71% believe they were unproductive and inefficient
  • 64% thought they ruin deep thinking 
  • 62% said that they failed to bring teams together

Chat groups like Slack are also problematic. They flood your people’s inboxes with important but not urgent information. This makes them feel pressured to reply quickly, disturbing their focus.

As a result, their work quality suffers. They also become less creative and satisfied. 

Problems like these are why Basecamp’s Jason Fried recommends that your team publish written reports. 

Instead of interrupting people with meetings and chats, ask them to publicly share their status updates. Anybody with questions about these reports can reply to them via text. 

However, allow your makers to respond to these on their own time. They should only be interrupted by reports that are important and urgent. 

This strategy helps them better perform deep work, increasing their work quality. 

Conclusion

Managers need makers. And, vice versa.

Think about it. Where would Apple be if Steve Jobs didn’t hire makers like Jonathan Ives? 

However, many remote managers tend to stop makers from creating great work. They constantly interrupt their schedules with unnecessary meetings.

This forces makers to practice multi-tasking. Thus, lowering their focus, productivity, and creativity. 

Their work becomes low-quality and full of mistakes. 

If you don’t let your team perform deep work, you’ll never achieve great innovation and brilliance. Steve Jobs famously said: 

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Great managers respect their employee’s time and focus. This is why you should embrace the maker’s schedule. 

First, create hybrid schedules or office hours. You assign certain days or hours to deep work. Then, you assign the rest to meetings and other management tasks. 

You should also create fewer meetings and group chats. Use written reports to learn the updates of your team’s projects. People with questions about these updates can reply to them. 

But most importantly, allow makers to respond to the concerns on their own time. This decreases interruptions. Thus, increasing work quality and their chances of creative breakthrough. 

When managers and makers effectively collaborate, genius work is only a matter of time.

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